Feb. 23, 201031 Bits, a nonprofit organization made up of five alumni, has partnered with the shoe company Reef to produce a sandal that shows off their individually unique beads normally strung on necklaces and bracelets.The nonprofit started in 2008 when Alli Swanson, Jessie Simonson, Anna Nelson, Kallie Dovel and Brooke Hodges saw an opportunity to help women in Uganda support themselves through careful rolling of recycled paper.
Before 31 Bits, the women would make the beads but leave them in their huts with no chance to make a profit. Now, they are made into jewelry and then sold in the U.S.
Just over a year ago, when the business was still sprouting and only employed six struggling women, Swanson’s mother happened to be wearing one of the colorful necklaces at the right time.
Swanson’s father is involved in the surfing industry and was having Brianna Brownley, the lead designer from Reef, over for dinner when Brownley notcied the necklace and had an idea.
After 31 Bits’ first business meeting and then looking forward to the mountain of production ahead, the two companies agreed on a contract and now are ready to sell the “Ugandal” for $58 at Jack’s Surf Shop, Surfside and on the Reef website.
While 31 Bits’ main purpose is to help the women support and set goals for themselves, the shoe company has never lost sight of the original aim.
“It’s cool because Reef makes it all about our ladies,” Simonson said.
While the beads do not make up a majority of the shoe, the rest of the material is also made from sustainable materials and manufactured in a Brazilian factory with strictly humanitarian standards.
“Not only is it good for the environment, but it’s also good for the ladies,” Swanson said. “It’s a very green shoe.”
To receive updates on the Ugandal launch parties and other information, become friends with 31 Bits Designs on Facebook and visit www.31bits.com.